Cubs: Recently acquired prospects face a critical year of development

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Caleb Kilian / Chicago Cubs
Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Cubs: Can Caleb Kilian, Pete Crow-Armstrong be future core pieces?

Caleb Kilian (from the Giants), SP, Fangraphs #7

What he’s done: Own the zone. His career minor league walk rate is just 1.2 per 9 innings; the major league average was 3.3 in 2021. Kilian is 25; he’s a much lower ceiling but much higher floor than the three guys discussed above, and that good control is a sign of his already solid development. He pitched at Double-A last season and should reach Iowa this year.

What he needs to do: Find at least one good secondary pitch. Fangraphs rates his slider as just a 45 on the 20-80 scouting scale, which isn’t great for a pitch that has taken over baseball in recent years. His best hope might lie with his changeup, often seen as the hardest pitch to develop and one which Keith Law grades at a potential 60 for Kilian.

It’s too bad that: Kilian is already 25. There may not be a lot of room for additional development, although what’s already there is solid. The good news is that he should reach the majors no later than 2023. Unless the Cubs make an unlikely playoff run this year, there’s no need to rush him.

Pete Crow-Armstrong (from the Mets), CF, Fangraphs #13

What he’s done: Very little. Because of COVID and shoulder surgery, PCA has had just 32 plate appearances in organized ball. He grades as a speedy and defensively excellent center fielder, a position where the Cubs have leaked runs in recent years.

What he needs to do: Stay healthy and hit. PCA is the prospect in this post about whom Fangraphs and Keith Law disagree the most. Law thinks he will be a great defender and hit well, while Fangraphs has Crow-Armstrong’s hit tool ceiling at just 40. Both see average to below average power, so PCA’s ability to get on base will probably determine his career trajectory. Fangraphs sees some Jackie Bradley, Jr. potential here, but there may be some Albert Almora risk as well.

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It’s too bad that: More of us don’t have airport call signs for initials.